Tag Archives: progressive education

Progressive Education

Progressive education holds it’s roots in the belief that students learn best though real-life activities. The educators that subscribe to this form of education say they go off of the most recent and best scientific theories of education and learning. These educators believe that students learn best by a process like John Dewey’s model of learning which includes:

  1. Realize the problem
  2. Define the problem
  3. Give ideas on how to solve the problem
  4. Come up with the consequences that may occur based on one’s own experience in the past
  5. Put the most likely solution to the test

Basically you could say that progressive education is “learning by doing”. That is a slogan often used by educators in this philosophy.

This method began in the late 19th century. The No Child Left Behind funding act has viewed this philosophy and alternative educational method compared to the test-oriented instruction.

Some of the things that progressive education programs may have in common are:

  • Learning by doing or hands on learning (experiential learning)
  • The curriculum is based on units with themes
  • Focus is on problem solving and critical thinking
  • Promotes teen work and social skills
  • Prefers real understanding and ability to apply skills rather than rote knowledge
  • Provides collaborative learning and cooperative learning projects
  • Teaches social responsibility and democracy
  • Uses the community in everyday curriculum
  • May use text books but prefers a wide variety of learning resources
  • Teaches that learning is a life long journey
  • Focuses on the social skills of students
  • Assessments consist of looking at a student’s projects and actions

Between 1919 and 1955 the Progressive Education Association was founded by Stanwood Cobb and others. The founders did a lot of research during the years of the Great Depression that compared students of this method to those of conventional schools. What was found was that at the college level the students from the progressive method did just as well if not better than their peers from conventional education. The study also found that the more conventional schools strayed from the traditional education methods the better the students did overall.

Alternative Education

Alternative education can be defined as any form or method of education that is not traditional. This would include home education (homeschool), charter school, alternative schools, independent schools and more. Typically these education methods consist of small class sizes and good relationship between students and teachers.

Different scholars and philosophers have very contrasting ideas in what type of education is right. For example Ralph Wald Emerson and Henry David Thoreau (to name a few) were proponents of progressive education which is based in the belief that humans learn most when doing real-life activities. Educational innovators such as Maria Montessori believe that education is more of an emotional, physical, psychological and spiritual cultivation. There there are Anarchists such as Tolstoy who think education is a means to political endeavors like the eliminations of social classes.

There are many more theories that we could talk about but the bottom line is that there are many alternatives. Luckily, education is not one size fits all and most methods have some merit and can be great for students. This belief is on the rise and is evident in the fact that some districts let their be “school choice”. For example, public schools can have magnet schools which focus in one particular area like performing arts or science.

Many alternative school methods were brought about in the 1970’s to give options rather than traditional public school. Since then these alternative schools (many but not all of them) have become accredited schools with transferable credits. Some of these are for troubled teens that have had discipline or legal problems. In these particular schools they can offer more structure, sometimes in a residential fashion with strict rules and consequences for actions. There are times when teens are court ordered to attend such schools.

It is believed that with different options comes a higher retention rate which means fewer drop outs. The fact that schools can be varied as to meet the needs of the students benefits society as a whole.